- Erin Hudgins
16 Simple Ways to Save Money on Your Electric Bill
The typical family spends an average of $2,200 per year on utilities, according to the US Energy Department. Making small changes and tweaking your energy usage can lower your electric bill by as much as 25%, without making a huge impact on your family’s comfort level. Check out these tips that will help you increase your home’s efficiency for year-round savings.
Hot water is the second-highest expense in powering most homes, accounting for 18% of the average electric bill. Cutting back on your hot water usage — in the shower, laundry, and dishwasher — can lead to a sizable reduction of your overall electric bill.
Adjust the temperature on your water heater: The default setting on water heaters is typically 140 degrees, but we rarely use water that hot. Lowering this setting 10 or 20 degrees could save you 10 percent on your water heating costs, without being too noticeable during your morning shower. If you are going on a trip for a few days, turn the water heater to its lowest setting to eliminate wasted energy. For maximum energy savings, install an insulation jacket on the first six feet of pipe coming off your heater.
Don’t wash clothes in hot water: A whopping 90 percent of the energy used by your washing machine goes towards water heating, and only 10 percent to washer operation. Stick to warm or cold water when washing clothes to cut your per-load energy usage in half. Cold water is fine for most loads and is the gentlest option for clothing, extending their lifespan. Worried about bacteria? Water has to boil for at least three minutes to kill anything of significance, so the hot cycle probably isn’t doing much to sanitize your clothes. Instead, add some laundry sanitizer to eliminate germs.
Dishwasher savings: It’s cheaper to use the dishwasher than washing items by hand. Additionally, turning off the heated-dry feature on your dishwasher and instead opting to air-dry will save 15 percent of the appliance’s total energy use.
Can’t stand shorter showers? Replace your showerhead: An efficient showerhead — look for the WaterSense label — can reduce your water usage by 2,700 gallons per year and means less energy spent on heating the water.
Power and Lighting
Keeping the lights, television and other electronics on account for 12 percent of the average homeowner's electric bill. Flipping off the light switch when you leave the room is a good start, but there are other simple ways to reduce power drain and elongate the life of your smart devices.
Swap out your light bulbs: LED bulbs use 90 percent less energy than incandescent, and can last 50 times longer. Save $75 annually by switching out the most widely used bulbs in your home, and then replace the rest as they burn out.
Install dimmers: Dimmer switches allow you to set the brightness in a room to meet your specific needs, while also reducing wattage and lowering costs. Light occupancy sensors automatically turn off lights when rooms are not being used — a great hands-free option for bathrooms, laundry rooms and utility closets.
Smart power strips eliminate phantom loads: A massive 75% of the energy used by home electronics is consumed when they are turned off. Devices that have remote controls — like televisions, DVD players, computers and stereos are the biggest culprits of this phenomenon, as are kitchen appliances that display a time or indicator light. Some of these gadgets never truly power off; but rather sit in standby mode and slowly trickle power from the home. Over time and multiple devices, this can add up. Plug these electronics into a smart power strip, which cuts off current when the devices aren’t being used, and as an added bonus protects your gadgets from power surges.
Replace outdated appliances with energy-efficient ones: If you’re in the market for a new appliance, buy an energy efficient model that will produce long-term savings. A dishwasher with the Energy Star label is required to use less than 5.8 gallons of water per cycle, compared to the 10+ gallons used by some older models. Prioritize appliances that run most often, like the fridge, HVAC system, water heater, dehumidifier, washer and dryer. You’ll even find government tax incentives and rebates for purchasing energy-friendly appliances, and while the initial cost is a bit higher, they’ll pay for themselves after a few years.
Ask about discounted utility rates: Some utility providers offer cheaper rates during certain times throughout the day, making energy-intensive chores like laundry up to 25% less costly than during “peak power” times. These off-peak times vary by season and electrical company, but often run from late evening to early morning (like 9pm to 7am) — when less people in your neighborhood are using the grid. Call your electric provider or visit their website to find out if they offer this service in your area.
Heating and Cooling
Home heating and cooling is typically the biggest expense on your electric bill — often accounting for more than 42% of the total cost — making it the best place to look for cost-cutting opportunities.
Breakdown of Typical Energy Usage in American Homes
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Fridge and Freezer Tips:
Adjust the temperature: Set your fridge to 38 degrees and your freezer to 5 degrees. This will keep your food fresh, but your appliances won’t have to work as hard to maintain their internal temperature.
Keep them full: Food acts as insulation and lessens the amount of time that the fridge has to run to stay cool, so don't feel guilty when you buy all that ice cream!
Consider upgrading that old fridge in the garage to an energy-efficient model: A 1986-era fridge uses 1400 kWh a year, while a modern energy-efficient model uses only 350 kWh — a huge 75% reduction. Replacing old, energy-hogging appliances could save you $14 a month on your bill, per appliance. Look for the EnergyStar sticker and compare energy consumption labels for maximum future savings. While you're at it, install the new fridge in the basement or other climate-controlled room; the consistent temperatures will help it to maintain its temperature without working so hard.
Install smart and programmable thermostats: Heating and cooling your living space is the single largest energy consumer in your home. Smart thermostats help you save money by adjusting temperatures with just a tap on your phone — either remotely or from the comfort of your own bed. Generally, every degree of adjustment
equals a decrease of one percent on your electric bill. And those savings add up: depending on the model chosen, today’s latest smart thermostat technology offers savings ranging from 10-23 percent every year.
Install ceiling fans: Keep the air circulating in your home with ceiling fans so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard. During winter months, reverse the direction of air flow using the small switch on the housing of the fan. This easy trick will push hot air downwards, boosting the efficiency of your heating system while keeping you warmer.
Change air filters regularly: Keep your HVAC system running at peak efficiency by changing your filters every 60 days, or more frequently if you have furry pets or live in a polluted city. Set a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget.
For more cost-cutting tips or if you'd like an energy audit done on your home,
please give Bell Electric a call at 540.552.5397.